KENTON – It’s always tough to duplicate a very successful season.
For Kenton, which returns just seven starters from a team that went 11-3 (8-1 Western Buckeye League) and were Division IV state semifinalists, getting back to the same place it was last season will be a lofty challenge.
“I’ve been coaching here since 1985 (second year as head coach), and I can’t remember ever having seven starters coming back. … It’s going to be interesting,” Kenton coach Brent Fackler said. “We will have a lot of sophomores and juniors starting for us this year. Usually, we have seniors coming back, who have played a lot and have matured for a couple years.
“I know the other teams in the WBL know we are down a little, so they aren’t going to feel sorry for us. I’m hoping the Friday night lights and all the tradition will motivate them.”
For years, the quarterback position has been the focal point for Kenton. This season will be no different.
Junior Trent Hites (5-9, 170) returns at quarterback for the Wildcats. During the regular season in 2014, Hites passed for 2,647 yards (first in WBL), 19 touchdowns (second) and 13 interceptions.
However, two of Hites’ main targets are gone. Kollin Stollar (65 catches, 804 yards, 8 TDs) and Colyn Blackford (93 catches, 1,117 yards, 11 TDs) have graduated.
“Trent threw for a lot of yards last season,” Fackler said. “Last year, he pretty much found those two (Blackford and Stollar) open and got them the ball. This season, he will need to make his reads a lot quicker. I think this will make him a better quarterback.”
Not only did the Wildcats lose Stollar and Blackford, but wideouts Conner Jones and Luke Jackson are gone. Looking to play a lot of time at wide receiver this season are Trey Reichelderfer (5-9, 165, Sr.), Chris Deardorff (5-10, 160, Jr.), Blake Swearengin (6-1, 170, Jr.) and Hunter Phillips (6-3, 185, Jr.).
Also, four of Kenton’s offensive linemen have graduated. The only returner on the line is junior Tyler Heintz (6-4, 275).
On defense, Kenton will need to fill several voids. Last season’s defensive unit was one of the best in Kenton history. The Wildcats allowed just 11.2 points and 221.3 yards per game (both second in the WBL). Senior Aarin Tillman (5-11, 275) is the only starter back from the front seven. Senior Devin McGrath (5-11, 175) and junior Austin Buroker (6-1, 185) shared a cornerback position last year and look to be the leaders this season in the secondary.
“We don’t have a lot of those big guys this season. But I think so far they have done a good job of flying to the football,” Fackler said.
Fackler said his team will need to come out strong and take it one week at a time.
“We really don’t have a rivalry game. I think every week, teams want to come in and knock us off. You have to be ready to play every Friday night,” he said.